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The Essential Phone the modular phone nirvana or just a great phone

June 28, 2017

The Essential Modular Phone another potential step towards a modular future

Another innovative approach to making smartphones modular has come from the developer of the Android mobile OS, Andy Rubin.  He captured the world’s attention with the smash success of his software. Today, all eyes are on Rubin's efforts at his latest technology firm, Essential. The Essential phone will run Android software and features one of the sleekest designs yet. Besides the powerful hardware, the Essential Phone features modularity front and center, as Rubin believes it is the future of cell phones.

Online publication The Verge noted that while "the Essential Phone is no threat to Apple and Samsung," it could "set the blueprint for making devices in a new way." But modular success depends on scale (like the Android ecosystem Rubi developed) and as with other modular smartphone ventures, the Essential modular future is challenged.

The blueprint that has the most possibility to create a platform for success is one that is universal and offers consumers scale and choice.  This means it has to be device agnostic, which is why the i-BLADES Smartcase offers a path to a modular future

The Essentials of the Essential Phone

Rubin's vision involves a phone that is "essential" in every sense of the word. It's not solely used for communication, but for organizing our lives, controlling key features of the home, and exploring the world. To that end, it features some impressive hardware inside. Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU running eight cores at 2.45 GHz, it packs a large amount of power.

Coupled with 4GB of RAM, the phone has everything it needs to run its massive edge to edge display while deftly handling all types of user input. Rubin's design ethos eschews cords wherever possible with the inclusion of a fast charging dock as well. A titanium shell — as opposed to the aluminum bodies found on most phones today — keeps all the components safe.

The real draw of the Essential Phone is the fact that Rubin has created his own take on the modular phone. The Essential Phone launched with add-ons like a 360-degree camera; it is meant to allow users to continue upgrading attachments/components over time through seamless integration with the body of the phone itself.  Though little is known about Rubin's overarching plans for these modules, a few have been revealed so far. Though the phone does include a USB-C connector, it’s not used for modularity. Instead, modules use two magnetic posts to click on the back of the phone body, which could be a deciding factor in the Essential Phone's ultimate success or failure on the market. . According to Rubin, “I think there’s a way […] to continuously produce innovation and show it to the consumer happening in real time. It’s almost like software updates for hardware.”


The Essential Phone's problem with scale

Essential is not the first company to explore the modular phone concept with a proprietary connector. We've seen a similar magnetic attachment method employed by Motorola for its Moto Mods. However neither system is compatible, users are locked into one phone ecosytem. As a result, we encounter a potentially major problem with the scalability of these modules.

Module makers want to innovate where there is opportunity and scale.  They do not want to create multiple variations for a huge range of different phones.  That makes any device based ecosystem a challenge for real future innovation.  So unless the Essential phone comes to rival Apple or Android, Rubin may have an uphill battle bringing other companies who make accessories on board with his plan.

Also from a user point of view, few like to be tied to one device ecosystem. Essential modules as with all smartphone modules to date limit you to that brand of manufacturer.


What the future could hold for the modular phone

Overall, the concept behind the Essential Phone is an impressive one.  But the reality is the vision of a modular future that has most opportunity and possibility to grow is one that is device agnostic.  A universal modular solution. 

That is why the i-BLADES Smartcase is an ideal solution. It is a phone case that is adaptable to different phone designs while the electronics that enable modular add-ons are standard.  This means that each module can snap onto any Smartcase regardless of the phone the case is protecting. This offers module makers infinite scale but allows them to limit their costs and variants because each Smartblade is universal.

Without the scale to reach most smartphone users, the Essential phone may be another modular phone destined to repeat mistakes made by of some of its predecessors.  Check out i-BLADES Smartcases below.